Leading by just two points at halftime, the women’s basketball team used a second half burst Saturday night to defeat Babson College, 61-48, in the second round of the NCAA tournament. On Friday night, the Jeffs dominated on the court with 11 different players scoring in the 84-30 victory over St. Joseph’s in the first round.
Amherst (29-0) jumped out to a quick start Friday evening with a three-pointer from Caroline Stedman ’12 that ignited a 12-0 run for the Jeffs. St. Joseph’s Megan Moran hit a pair of free throws to put the Bears on the board for the first time, but Amherst tallied five unanswered points to take the 17-2 lead. Two layups and a free throw from junior Janine Doran cut the visitors’ deficit to 10, the closest they would come to catching the Jeffs for the remainder of the game.
Back-to-back layups from Marcia Voigt ’13 sparked another offensive burst as the Jeffs stole the show with a 15-0 run. Lem Atanga McCormick ’12 notched her first field goal in the run, while Jasmine Hardy ’13 buried two three-pointers to give Amherst a 25-point lead.
The Jeffs outscored the Bears 21-11 over the next 10 minutes, as a layup from Livia Rizzo ’13 brought the lead to 32 with just under two minutes remaining in the half. St. Joseph’s put up six points before the buzzer to cut the Amherst lead to 52-24 heading into the break.
The second half started out slow, with only seven points scored in the first five minutes of action. Amherst quickly found its momentum, however, as Kim Fiorentino ’12 capped off an 8-3 run with a three-pointer to put the Jeffs ahead by 36.
Amherst held St. Joseph’s scoreless for the final 12 minutes of play, outscoring the Bears, 15-0. The Jeffs finished with a 54-point victory, defeating the Bears 84-30. The Jeffs held St. Joseph’s to just 20.8 percent shooting, while home court advantage helped the Jeffs shoot 31-61 from the floor. First-year Megan Robertson led the scoring with 15 points, shooting six-for-eight and grabbing nine rebounds. Voigt added 12 points, four steals and three assists, while Hardy added a career-high seven rebounds. Savannah Holness ’15 followed with a career-high nine points.
Rizzo and Fiorentino balanced out the offense, each finishing with eight points, while seniors Shannon Finucane, Jackie Renner, Stedman and Atanga McCormick combined for 13 points and nine rebounds in the victory. The senior class broke the program record with their 121st win (121-6), outdoing last year’s class who finished with a 120-9 record overall.
On Saturday evening the top-ranked Jeffs downed Babson College in the second round, eliminating the Beavers from the NCAA tournament for the fourth consecutive year. Amherst, who is now 19-4 in tournament play, has won 48 consecutive games including 65 in LeFrak gymnasium.
Babson dominated the first couple minutes of play, jumping out to an early 5-0 lead. Fiorentino sparked the Amherst offense with a three-pointer as the Jeffs fired back with an 11-4 run. A layup from Stedman finished off the run to give Amherst its first lead of game.
The teams traded baskets for the remainder of the half, tying nine times in 16 minutes of action. Amherst built a three-point lead on a jumper from Fiorentino at the five-minute mark, but Babson retaliated with three consecutive points to tie the game at 25. A jumper from Atanga McCormick and a pair of free throws from Babson forward Kathleen King tied the game up again with just 30 seconds left in the half, but Stedman pulled through with a jumper to put the Jeffs ahead, 29-27, heading into the break.
Babson looked energized coming into the second half, tallying the first four points for a 31-29 lead. It was a back-and-forth game for the next three minutes of action, but a layup from Stedman gave the Jeffs the lead at 38-36.
King buried another pair of free throws to trim Amherst’s lead to 41-40, but back-to-back layups from Atanga McCormick and Voigt put the Jeffs ahead by five. The Beavers managed to cut their deficit to three, but Voigt pulled through for Amherst on a jumper with 8:21 remaining. Robertson then buried her first three-pointer of the game to put the Jeffs up by eight.
Babson responded with four consecutive points, but once again Voigt came through with a layup to make it 52-46. The Beavers struggled to get on the board in the final minutes, hitting just one basket in the last five minutes of play. The Jeffs grasped onto a four-point lead with just over four minutes left in the game, but a layup from Robertson and yet another three from Voigt stretched the Amherst lead to nine. Three consecutive baskets from Stedman in the final 40 seconds secured the Amherst victory, 61-48.
Voigt led the team with 15 points, scoring 13 in Amherst’s second-half surge. Stedman also finished with 15 points on the day, moving into fifth-place all-time on the program’s scoring list with 1,185 career points. Robertson followed with nine points and 10 rebounds, while Atanga McCormick and Fiorentino combined for 16 points and 10 boards.
Stedman was recognized last week for her outstanding performance this season, earning NESCAC Player of the Year for the second time in her career after leading the Jeffs to their third-straight league championship. Stedman ranked third in the conference in scoring (13.9), while shooting 41.5 percent from floor. The senior captain scored in the double digits in 21 of Amherst’s 27 regular season games, becoming the 12th player in program history to join the 1,000-point club after a 17-point performance against Bowdoin. She is also one of 10 finalists for the prestigious Jostens Trophy, which is awarded to a player that excels not only on the floor, but also in the classroom and in the community.
Atanga McCormick was also recognized for her success, earning a spot next to Stedman on the All-Conference First Team. The senior
forward averaged 11 points and 5.5 this season, scoring double digits in 16 regular season games and shooting 45.5 percent from the floor. After hitting the 1,000-point mark with 17 points against WPI, McCormick grabbed the top spot on Amherst’s career blocks chart with four blocks against Tufts.
Fiorentino joined her classmates on the All-Conference Second Team after scoring double digits in 13 regular season games. She’s currently tied leading the team in assists per game, while ranking second in rebounds, blocks and free-throw percentage.
Robertson was selected as the NESCAC Rookie of the Year after making an immediate impact for the Jeffs on the court. On the season, she sits at second on the team in scoring with 11.3 points per game, recording five double-doubles after hitting double digits in 16 games this season. She also holds the league’s second-highest field goal percentage (.555).
With the win against Babson on Saturday, the Jeffs advance to the Sweet 16 for the fifth consecutive year. Looking to defend its national championship, Amherst will face off against York College on Friday night in LeFrak Gymnasium. Emmanuel College and King’s College will also play Friday night in the Sectional semifinals. Friday’s winners will advance to Sectional finals on Saturday with a chance to compete for a spot in the Final Four.